As we head into the Memorial Day weekend and officially kick off summer, I wanted to share with you something I wrote for family and friends several weeks ago. I did not know Cpt Weikel, he was a comrade of my cousin who is currently doing his 2nd tour in Iraq, and I went to represent our family and pay my respects. Have a safe holiday and please take a moment to remember the true meaning of Memorial Day.
Yesterday was a remarkable day and I am not certain I can do it justice, but I will do my best. Arlington National Cemetery is a paradox. It is one of the most beautiful, quiet, leafy places. The birds sing and the trees shade you as you walk. And then you remember why you are there and how many people have come there for the same reason for many many years. Yesterday we were there to honor CPT Ian Weikel. CPT Weikel was awarded the Purple Heart and the Bronze Star, both were presented to CPT Weikel’s widow, Wendy, by General Anderson. Additionally, Wendy was presented with a case for the burial flag. General Anderson spoke of how highly regarded CPT Weikel was by all who knew him, including his senior officers. Clearly CPT Weikel loved what he did and excelled at being a soldier.
The caisson, with three riders and one riderless horse took CPT Weikel to his final resting place. Over three hundred people followed the caisson to the gravesite. There were many active military whom had traveled from near and far to honor CPT Weikel. I have never seen such a display of patches, braids, medals, nor have I ever seen such shiny shoes. My favorite was a soldier who was clearly Calvary. He wore his spurs over dress his shoes. There were many retired military as well as Patriot Guard Riders. These folks are phenomenal. More than twenty came, there were twenty Harleys and many of them had two riders. All of them carried very large American flags, which at the end of the service they made an alley with the flags for Wendy to walk through to the limousine, so in her grief, she could be shielded from the crowd. They did not know CPT Weikel but came to honor him and they do this for any soldier they can. We all walked shoulder to shoulder in the crowd that had an amazing cross section of Americans: bikers, soldiers, mothers, and friends.
The graveside service was beautiful. There was a 21 gun salute, Taps was played, as was America the Beautiful, and there was ceremonial Bagpipe playing. CPT Weikel’s pastor from his church in Texas gave a very moving eulogy about the passion with which CPT Weikel lived his life. The passion with which he loved his wife, his God and the Army was fierce. The pastor spoke of the impact that CPT Weikel had on so many people. This was apparent again by the sheer number of people there, including several West Point cadets who had been given permission to have the day off to pay their respects. Both Wendy and CPT Weikel’s mother were presented with flags.
We were standing in the shade and the Army band was playing America the Beautiful while the sun shone on the headstones of Fallen Soldiers and I began to understand. It was as if I heard the word Brotherhood for the very first time. I recalled a moment of Candace and Matthew’s wedding when I was talking to Roman Izzo. He said “Don’t call us Heroes, it really is offensive. It shows disrespect to each and every one of our brothers who has gone before us and given the Ultimate Sacrifice.” I get it now, even though I thought I understood it then. Watching the ceremony at Arlington, with the leaves and the birds and gravesite, for the first time I really began to understand that Freedom isn’t Free. I knew it but did not understand it. I have never been more proud to be an American. It was so very humbling to know that so very many people who I have never met or will meet, stand tall every single day so that I can have the life I have. They stand tall to protect my children. And they consider it a privilege, an honor. Up until yesterday, I thought I knew what Honor was. I had no idea. As a civilian, I am certain I will never understand it fully yet yesterday gave me a glimpse of what Honor is. There is a lump in my throat, tears in my eyes and pride in my heart to know that CPT Ian Weikel gave the Ultimate Sacrifice for us all. Let us do what Christian has told us to do, Deserve It. We can never repay the Ultimate Sacrifice however, we can not squander it. May God rest your soul Captain Ian Weikel and thank you for your gift which we can never repay. God Bless America. God Bless those who keep America safe, we are forever in your debt.